Project Dissertation

I moved to this fabulous city three years ago mainly to; be near an airport for travel, be able to not trade my stilletos for trainers, and to finish my doctoral studies in four years. Yes, that pretty much sums up my priorities at 30. So now I am ABD with nine months to go and San Francisco is no easy city to ignore. Although, I would argue that each experience that deters my academic writing is really just needed inspiration. Welcome and I hope you enjoy...

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Bilingual, Bicultural, and Dual Citizen. J School B.A., M.A. in High Incidence Disabilities, & ABD in Education.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Overheard comment: "She looks so young to be getting married."

Overheard comment 2: "Do you think she is a model?"

Not one but two Quinceaneras grace the grounds of Golden Gates Conservatory of Flowers.

Originally this post had been substantially longer but I was trying to edit the format and deleted most of it :) You get the picture...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Salsa in the City

I have avoided salsa dancing since I moved to the city. If someone asks me if I know how to salsa I quickly say no. Am I open to taking a lesson with them, double no. The last thing I need is to dance with a man I thought was sexy, but is an absolute weak lead. From my brief exposure, a good salsero does not care if you can dance or not- you will dance.

In salsa dancing, I have learned to follow. I know it is closely related to the cumbias I grew up dancing, but different. Growing up my Peruvian and Costa Rican friends would invite my family to their parties and again, I saw the warmth and the ambiente, the love of the music, and sense of family was present: The merengue, cha cha cha, mambo, and salsa were different.

Dancing and music have always been in my family. Walking home and dancing in the streets to a live Tambora band at the Feria de San Marcos. Mariachis and trios at quinceaneras, bautizos, and weddings. Los Dj's and conjuntos sharing dance floor time at all the weddings. The sets of music changing I never knew when I was asked to dance if I had just accepted a cumbia, a banda, a pegadita, or whatever else was about to play. I just followed.

As my grade school and college friends got better at their dances, I just decided salsa was not in my Mexicos collective memory.

I took a rooftop lesson once in Santa Monica, like I said- a weak lead, muy un sexy. Then I dated a Cubano and wow, I never danced so well. He moved to Miami and that ended my LA run at Floriditas and the salsa scene.

Now that I think of it, I have no luck with the Cubanos, the one I went out with last spring also moved to Miami. It is beautiful, having been twice myself I can appreciate it but prefer California.

So, my girlfriends have mentioned Cocomo's to me on several occasions: Since they wanted to take the one hour lesson, and I did feel like dancing I agreed.

What a beautiful night. I felt like I was in another era. The band stand accommodated Pepe y Su Orq. Peru perfectly. The airy wooden dance floor was full of salseros. I did not say no to anyone, but definitely would not say yes two a second dance with a few. I enjoyed the chivalry, the exhilaration of dancing well, being able to follow, at least for an evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Today Was A Good Day

Up in time to make and take my coffee to the living room couch and turn on MTV. While balancing the line of midnight blue on my eylid, I heard Amy Winehouse, the wicked lyrical Brit singing about "I cheated myself..."

Almost in time to my 7am meeting- but not quite.

For the last four years I have been at the same urban high school site. For the last four weeks a senior that has passed both parts of the high school exit exam, has stopped regulary attending. I noticed on the progress reports he was in danger of failing, and wondered when we all stopped caring.

Two of us decided we would make an active effort to help him towards graduation. The director supported our intervention. We called the home, the gaurdian, and asked the other students if anyone had his cell number. We reached no one.

He came in today, and I was called to the office. All the reasons why he might feel, anxious, depressed, or uncertain of what transition after graduation meant, were laid out for him. He agreed.

We told him we would take it one day at a time. Come to school or call us one day at a time, he gave us his cell phone number. It felt like progress.

We worked on his transition paperwork, later in the day he went along with our idea to make his own schedule. There were some bumps in the road, he answered his cell to say, "hey I am in school let me call you back," then handed over his phone: To keep the outside at bay.

He checked in with other teachers, created a schedule he felt he could follow. Had a non supportive interaction with another staff, and I reminded him not to power struggle. He heard me.

Reading through the newspaper I mentiond Ice Cube would be at the Filmore and started humming today was a good day, he laughed at me and said, "you don't know nothing about that," I agreed. I just like the song it makes me happy.

I think I was just happy, that we had retrieved him from the concrete jungle. That he could acknowledge he needed help and allowed us to care.

The New America Media is giving an amazing voice to generation next WHO ASKED US?: Dropping Out and Coming Back

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Living in a Sanctuary

I tell friends from out of town all the time- living in San Francisco, is like being on an adult fantasy island.

Smart sexy singles; plenty of watering holes, restaurants, music venues, fashion, yoga, and art to choose from. Plus an excellent transit system that makes driving, optional.

It is no wonder this city gave the nation; a form of legal gay marriage, medical marijuana cards, the first woman speaker of the house, and now a mayor that believes San Francisco should be a sanctuary for immigrants.

There is something very human about living in this city. The access to free hospice, health care, and psychiatric care are additional perks. Being green and sustainable are always on the agenda.

Yet there is more to it. A general sense of charity and philanthropy pervades: Maybe we should thank the Jesuits for that. Really though, the well being of the city depends on all of us who inhabit it. Some give money, some give time, some share their resources or their outrage.

This city like any other city is not perfect: At least San Francisco is aware and accountable.

I guess I never really thought about the mayor. Beyond the fact that his former wife was an alumna of my university and from what I gathered somewhat Puerto Rican on her Mami's side. Which I thought was cool.

Anyway, I saw him on Sunday. Without his security detail, without officers distracting from the event. He was there, in the common area on the Marina Green following the Multiple MyelomaResearch Foundation 5k. Gavin Newsom, just another person in the crowd, talking and stopping for the occasional photo, without upstaging the event, or the community that hosted it.

Newsom says S.F. won't help with raids / Mayor pledges to discourage feds' immigration sweeps

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Phoenix

It was 8am on a Sunday morning and in honor of Earth Day I thought I would take public transit to the Marina Green. The rain had finally settled and the sun was out. After trying to simultaneously make coffee, get ready, and look up the bus schedule on, I realized the 8:30 start time was quickly approaching.

Guilt, as I noted the melting glaciers on Googles masthead, but I could not figure out how far the closest transit stop left me from where I needed to be. My ultimate paradox. I was headed to a benefit 5k so I imagined one good intention might actually even out the other?

Good parking, it was meant to be. I walked with my friend and her family. Never having met the brother she lost to a rare form of blood cancer, I knew that the path before us was like our friendship. Sometimes our presence is enough, just walking along the open trail, the Golden Gate bridge ahead of us, the water to one side and the city to the other. In the open, nature absorbs some of your grief.

As we rounded the corner along Marina Blvd. I noticed a San Francisco Flag hanging from a balcony. They told me it was a phoenix, because the city had risen from the ashes. Symbolic of places and people that rise from an unimaginable and irreversible loss.

I thought about the last year, in relation to the last week, and knew, things were on the rise.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fit to Print

The rain started as I was headed up to catch the 6 downtown.

I waited on Market for my friend to exit Bloomingdale's and we walked to Cody's. It was a combined book launch and closing party for the bookstore. Once inside we noticed the cover of Oh the Hell of It All was exactly like her sons book Oh the Glory of It All. I looked at the posters and saw the signature Rolling Stone Tongue hanging out and I showed it to my friend, "this is how I am feeling today."

We talked about our day, passing on the pelegrino, cheese and meringues, "where is the wine I asked?" She laughed, asked where we should go to dinner after the reading: I would forgo dinner for a heavy red wine I said. We decided on small plates. Looking at the crowd as we took our seats I added, "make it a goblet of wine."

She asked about my interview at KQED for a spot on a PBS funded media log. She had her opinions on the direction of it all and I said to her, let me quote the interviewer for you directly, 'I want to reach out beyond the insular group of white men in the field of technology that read my web log.' Somethings can't change, fast enough: Why not help him out?

After the opening folk singers sang I'll Fly Away and I was the only one who had probably never heard that hymnal, I thanked my friend for joining me. I wanted to see how this character from the book played out, all I remember is that in her sons book she repeatedly threatened to jump from her glass plated penthouse after her husband left her and her best friend betrayed her.

What Pat Montandon said was along the lines of while she was betrayed and seemingly left to be crushed by the weight of the events, she wasn't. Her son Sean Wilsey writes honestly about how sometimes a parents love or lack their of can set the stage for their child's life. In his case the worst that happened was he stold a scooter, got put in juvie and sent to retreat among the pastoral Italian countryside. I will admit though, I would never trade his experiences for my own loving two parent home.

It was light reading I picked up for a weekend trip. Suddenly I was in the middle of their novela as an audience member yelled out, "Bitch," in response to the mention of , 'Dede now Wilsey.' All I know is that Dede is the woman (read money) behind the de Young museum and the Aztec inspired main tower is a masterpiece. Yes, she also did steal her best friends husband.

As I sat there listening to how Montandons first husband took the then 18 year old preachers daughter to get her hymen cut before they got married was, "who does that?!" My friend and I were horrified. If it were fiction we may have reacted differently.

When it comes down to it, there never really is a way to get the full story when betrayal and hurt ravages a family. It is not really something that can be understood by those outside of the immediate exchange. It was a diversion for me to read the story. Yet in a way I felt sorry for them, that they were never given or had not chosen the opportunity to either grieve or get over their betrayal in private.

The chocolate ganache cake and champagne did not disappoint us.

We turned right out the door into the rain in the heart of downtown, looking for a place to drink and spill our thoughts.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Having a Voice

Unless, you are growing up Black, Asian or Latina/o you have no idea how hurtful it is to hear commentaries about your community flooding the airwaves with entitled authority. Growing up in suburban San Fernando Valley, I remember seeing the emergence of the street laborers at the major intersections. They looked familiar to me, like the men I had seen working their land, or businesses back in Mexico, the working class that kept the republic going.

On the carpool to the private Catholic High School I heard the following, “Go home beaners.” I was shocked; remember telling them hey, they are Mexican, like me. “You are different, not like them.” No, I am just like them.

This exchange fueled an editorial I wrote for the high school paper. Commenting on how language was powerful and should be used thoughtfully. How stereotyping and name calling was, offensive, hurtful, and ignorant. This was 1990, my editorial was highly edited and I was given an ultimatum. Remove the word ‘beaner,’ or go unpublished.

This was the Journalism advisor and the principal talking to me in a big dark office. I said, I would not change the word. I still remember that first taste of being voiceless. It was unlike the nurturing bicultural environment I had been raised in. I did not have the heart then to tell parents about the visit to the principals’ office, it was with their own hands that they were paying the full yearly tuition.

In college, as I was enterprising stories for the paper, I thought I could write about things that I never read about. The concerts, the organizations, the traditions, the experiences I lived but their reporting lacked. It was a hard if rare sell.

I found comfort in public radio, micro radio, and alternative media- only. Devoted much of my efforts to that medium which I felt covered the content I wanted to read about, and was happening all around me.

This was before I could subscribe to Latina magazine or Tu Ciudad magazine. Google Mexico did not exist either, so getting the latest news meant watching Spanish language news (which is another article and has always been very good to their community). Before my counterparts blogged, Loteria Chicana and Pachucoville to name two. Before I was on multimedia artists Harry Gamboa Jr’s ‘Virtual A List.’

Main stream media was a segregating, not unifying force in the 80’s and 90’s.
I wondered if things had changed for today’s youth?

Sitting with 6 of my students today, I asked them about their own media and technology usage. My convenient sample of 6 consisted of; 2 African American girls, 2 African American Boys, 1 White boy, and 1 Asian boy. They are all between 15 and 17 years old and attending a small non-public school where half of the student enrollment is eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

I asked how many had cell phones? 1 girl and all 4 boys did.

Who used text messaging? 1 girl and 2 boys said they did.

Who had a Myspace account? 1 girl and 3 boys did.

Who had a computer at home? 1 girl and 3 boys did.

Where else did you use the computer? School, community access programs, the library, work, and from the cell phone, they replied.

Who had MP3 players? 2 girls and 3 boys did.

Who had a blog? 2 boys did, both on Myspace and one additionally on SF Gate.

Who listened to podcasts? 3 boys did. One boy responded to another students puzzled look, “It is where you can download and listen to independent radio shows, music and artist.”

I asked them if they considered the technology and media they used to be an alternative media source? “Yes,” they all responded in unison. One girl explained:

“The T.V. and news does not talk about the stuff you want them to talk about…They just cover a little of what I am interested in, before jumping to the next story.”

I think what they are saying is that it doesn’t matter where they; see it, hear it, read it, or download it, as long as they are able to relate to it. It seems things have not changed that much after all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sabado Gigante

Took the noon train to meet the girls at the Gold Dust Lounge in Union Square. Enjoyed $2.75 Mimosas and Irish Coffees. Learned that Kir Royale and champagne cocktails are $6.00! Still a deal, and a great atmosphere especially since it was light on the tourist.
We headed to Union Square Park but realized the India inspired flower show was actually inside. It was fun to wander around looking at the displays, for about 5 minutes. Then we found the queue for the henna artist. When I saw her I knew she was Chicana. Although we are often mistaken for East Asian and Middle Eastern, I can spot my own in this big city. My friend and I got matching bracelets. Well, she actually got the artist I got the assistant prima, sporting last nights hair and outfit :) She was cute, but parts of my henna bracelet are questionable.
Pre-bonfire drinks at the Beach Chalet with friend and her architect boyfriend. Oh, and they had invited his single pharmaceutical friend also. Micro-brew, and beer bread yum. I missed a call from my friend Sarah, she is amazing, just gave birth to an 8.8lb baby, the design on the restaurant banister reminded me of her.
It was windy, and the new fire pits in Ocean beach were all lit down the beach. Seems like we might actually make it to Burning Man this year. At the bonfire there was the usual toasting of marshmallows, people sharing what they had brought. Someone had donated 100 light saber swords- geeky. Sooo much fun though. Challenged by a 5 year old she taunted me, "Is that all you got, ha ha ha ha, come on!" Those mini burners are fierce- sweet.
It was too cold to stay out, and we already smelled like smoke, they decided we should plan a trip camping and that my friend would celebrate her July birthday back on Ocean Beach. We said good night.
My friends were down the street at the little Shamrock and I joined them. There I was smelling like a fire, joining my friend her boyfriend, and his friend on a blind date. Comedy. The blind date girl left and we headed to Pascuales Italian open til 1am for a very late dinner.
All about yoga and mass today.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Besitos

A beautiful week...

Sarah & Sam welcomed their lovely bebe in Portland, Oregon
Sabrina & Rich settled their family into their new home in Arizona
Mami in the city part II
San Francisco Guy friend & girlfriend got matching commitment ink
Renditions of Hey Big Spender.... performance art in the living room
My rusty journalism got a pep talk from an old friend
Afternoon drinks at the vintage Gold Dust with the girls
The Bollywood inspired flower show at Union Square
The inaugural bonfire at Ocean Beach
Burning Man negotiations and planning

Trust in me, baby, give me time, gimme time, um gimme time. I heard somebody say, oh, “The older the grape, Sweeter the wine, sweeter the wine.” Janice Joplin

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blog Gone Wild

When I read the article my colleague sent me of a British Diplomat that blogged about his indiscretions- I laughed. Recently we have taken up a discussion on new media. I must say, I consider this ability to publish and organize on the web, revolutionary.

Blogging has changed the way we communicate.

Last month I received an email about my own blog, and how perhaps I was not portraying all of who I was. Somehow recounting my good times frolicking in the city was a bit offensive. Or at least it was offending their image of me.

Then my relative texted me, mentioning information she could have only gathered from the blog, since we had not spoken. Admitted she had misinterpreted something she had read.

Earlier today, catching up with my mom on the phone, "mija they read your blog and they think they know your whole life." I assured her, that I knew it was public and did not publish anything I would not be comfortable discussing If I chose to. Privacy, is not something I give up easily.

So it has become an issue of discretion, did the British Diplomat share too much information about his visits to the red light district? Or did he beat someone to the story by publishing his own indiscretions? The headlines are full of what public figures are caught in the act doing. Rarely however, are these public figures acknowledging their faults.

Perhaps because I was trained as a journalist I think of my blog in a more creative and uncensored way. My life is not hard news, nor do I posture it to be so.

It is interesting however, what people choose to read into. I was asked recently if blogging did not interfere with my academic writing. I explained it was like ADD. I had to blog, as a creative outlet in order to then be able to sit and focus on the dissertation. The pen to paper journal I have kept since childhood, has not been replaced. The blog is what I choose to share, discretely.

I heard once you should do what you love: I love writing. This week the opportunity to enter the field of blog journalism appeared. I thought about how I always intended to pick up my career in journalism. Somehow, I imagined I would simultaneously exist within Academia while, also resuming my work with independent media.

We are full circle, and when I enter the legitimate realm of blog journalism, I will be accountable for my writing. Until then, if you don't like what you read, then please, don't let me keep you: Support your local blogger, their writing is changing the way we view media, communication, and information.

Blog Gone Wild for British Diplomat

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Waiting for the Muse

Sitting among plush chairs and sofas in the Fairmont Hotel lounge my friend and I toasted with champagne cocktails, yet another conference. We listened to the live band and waited for our friends to do their rounds.

A rock n' roll hall of famer took the mic and men from his generation asked to join us. They were with the conference. One conversation led to another, and the writer in the group held court. Effortlessly, we sat for hours, eating, conversing and drinking. When I asked him about his writing process he said easily, I just wait for the muse to arrive. I smiled, knowingly.

At some point finally noticed our friends had been waiting on us and I invited them to join us. The arts administrator exchanged cards with the writer. The writer invited us all to his home in San Antonio, where the next conference is to be held. He picked up the evenings tab and as part of us made our way out into the town he said to me in a familiar tone: Be careful out there. I assured him these where the same friends I had explored the streets of Guadalajara with last year.

We arrived at the house the Cal grads had partied at years before. This evening was about sharing Chicano Art and Music. If the conference was showcasing established artists, this house party was up and coming contemporary artist. The pulse of the scene, felt like what had been done in LA years before, sadly don't know if spaces as vibrant as the PRC remain today. Three bands preformed, Djs spun between sets, and the the walls were full of art.

I was taken by a painting of a gold and red human heart. The heart was suspended above a plot of golden land and green and brown crops that led into the purple mountains as the fiery sunset prepared to set. It was a large image set inside a picture box frame, with delicate burgundy curtains draped to the side.

The artist introduced himself, I complimented his work. He showed me the print that inspired the painting. The direction he was going, how it was a response to the death of his sister. Octavio: Mark my words, will be famous.

I opened up the box from my friend and found a lavender heart: The print I brought home is "La Sanacion," a heart on the mend by his and her hands.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Sitting around the kitchen table, my mom, madrina and grandmother told me stories of lent as we ate capirotada de ricos. Not all cueresma food are made alike. Evidently capirotada de los ricos is made with pan dulce, while capirotada de los pobres is made of the left over bolillos that were given away at the bakeries. I grew up eating both.

"On good Fridy we would fast til after noon...In the kitchen they would be cooking the lenten food, chile rellenos, enchiladas, camarones, capirotada. So the whole house smelled like food and we couldn't wait to eat."

Food and religion seem to be a long standing tradition in my family. As I grow into my own family I wonder, how these traditions will continue. Then, I spend time with my prima, she also keeps lent, knows how to make camarones...We share the same sense memories around religion, holidays, food, family. She wants her children to have some of our own childhood- it was that good.

Sometimes the people you expected to grow old with change. It has for me, and finding the people that are learning the ways of our past, makes me feel hopeful. Together we can carry the traditions the women before us brought with them from their homes in Aguascaliente, to their homes in Tijuana, then San Diego, and further north.

Although I have not fasted this morning, the tv is already on, the radio is on also, I won't make it to mass today either: I have made chile rellenos once, and the recipe is typed on a file in my computer called mamis recetas...I know the lessons of the Matriarchs before me are alive and well, just waiting to emerge.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Family, Friends & Food

One day I will be a confident cook, but for now I love that everyone wants to feed me...

  • We arrived at my primas and she wanted to take us out to eat. We opted for her frijoles de la olla, queso fresco, avocado and tostadas. She mixed us drinks and we caught up for hours. Later my madrina prepared a nopal salad with red onions y tomates- yum.
  • Before mass it was cafe con leche at the table with my parents, madrina and the sourdough bread I brought down. After mass my madrina insisted on making us breakfast;scrambled eggs, frijoles,nopal salad, and tortillas.
  • After picking up my abuelita we were going to go out to dinner. Once inside Cardenas, everyone started ading produce to the cart- jicama, oranges, garbanzos in the pod, papaya, limones. Then chiles both fresh and bagged. Picked out some 2x lager with my papi and then found the instore tortilleria. Dios mio, I thought my madrina was lying when she told me I could ask for one fresh from the line. We stood around adding crema mexicana to the fresh tortillas de maiz. Then just because they were fresh from the panaderia I picked some bolillos. At this point we agreed to stay in for dinner.
  • I think the plan was to go to a casino, after dropping off the groceries. Before we knew the house was full, and my prima brought over fresh empanadas. My mami, abuelita y madrina, had the botanas flowing. When everyone was full they started making the tamales- that really was the only thing I requested oh and capirotada.
  • It is cuaresma comida, so we had capirotada for breakfast y cafe. Belly's full my prima and I took her sons on the train to Olvera Street. Luz del Dia was closed so we chose one of the two courtyard facing patios. We split sopes y ensalada de nopal. We shared a margarita toast and talked about what the last four months had been like. We had another margarita and her boys were busy telling us stories, drawing us pictures, sounding their calavera rattles dancing on beat.
  • That night, before we left my madrinas I know everyone else had meat: She also sauteed many green vegetables over wheat pasta.
  • The next day my dad and I caught up over raisin bran. For lunch my mom made a fresh salad. That night I shared some good laughs over steak fries and mozzarella sticks at the Dresden. Needed the vodka gimlet and collins to see a really cheesy movie.
  • Breakfast with my dad again. Lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen with my friend and colleague. Appetizers on our way to the airport in Downtown Burbank at Gordon Biersch with the best guy friend a girl could ask for.

Gracias, for the new and familiar memories alike...